Wilson Wright Jr. wraps up his third Valvoline Runoffs championship. He did it in a race that kept not only the drivers and corner workers on their toes but also the fans. In a race that saw some bumping, fender-benders and great passes, the competition was ongoing until the checker flag flew to signal that Wright Jr. could celebrate his upcoming 50th birthday early.
"Hardest working race I have ever had," said winner Wright Jr. "Started off well. "Scott got under me on the second lap and it was pretty tight. We hooked up, separated and Keith go by us. I finally got the lead back on the back straight. This was one of the best races and most exciting I have every had."
The race started with Scott Culbertson taking the early lead going into the first turn (the "esses") past the back-straight start line. Wilson Wright Jr., Keith Grant and Joe Kristensen were side-by-side behind Culbertson until the final turns on the first lap when Wright Jr. took the lead.
Kristensen had a mechanical problem and retired in pit lane at the end of the first lap. One could out a blanket over the top eight. Culbertson took a slight edge over Wright Jr. on the back straight with little room between the two. A light tap caused both to back off and allowed Grant to slide into the lead. The excitement continued when the challenge for fourth place took out the two drivers as they came together. Steve Spiers retired at the turn while Russ Theus managed to make it to pit lane with front end body damage to the Toyota Tercel.
More bumping allowed for another lead change and right rear body damage to the former leader Grant. Wright Jr. had the lead with Grant fighting to stay in second. The fans knew this would be one to watch as position changes were happening in the entire field turn-by-turn lap-by-lap.
At the halfway mark, the top five were: Wright Jr., Grant, Culbertson, Joe Tenney and Juan Montalvo Jr.
As the leaders continue in order, a battle for eleventh continued between Ron Copeland and Matt Duea. On the final lap, Duea won the battle for tenth position over Copeland.
The final laps of the race were anything but calm as the forth place Tenney looped it and lost one position to Montalvo Jr. who then lost the position on-track to Lans Stout. Not to worry for Montalvo Jr. because on the final lap, Stout pitted.
"It was so close in the beginning," said Culbertson.
"Wilson took me by surprise, I felt the bump in the rear," stated Grant. "My crew chief said the tire wasn't flat, you're okay so I continued." (Grant finished the race with a flopping rear bumper).